How to Cook a Juicy Turkey

How_To_Cook_a_Turkey

How to Cook a Turkey 

Follow our step by step tutorial for how to cook a turkey with a bag, or without for a delicious, juicy turkey every time.  Cooking a turkey is actually really easy, even though many are intimidated by the process.  

To bag or not to bag – that is THE question.  While you can cook a delicious turkey without an oven bag, I’ve found that using a turkey bag is THE way to go for the juiciest, most flavorful, and AMAZING turkey. Not to mention, the gravy is also superb when using a bag, and clean up is a cinch!

Warning – You might be stuck on turkey duty from here on out if you use this technique because this will be the juiciest turkey you’ve ever made.  No more dry turkey for your family! 

Thawing a Turkey

Step 1 is to thaw the turkey. Plan ahead – the best way to thaw a frozen turkey is in the refrigerator.  Depending on the size of the frozen turkey you purchased, it can take up to a week to thaw it properly.  

If you don’t have the refrigerator space, then you can also thaw a turkey in cold water in the sink.  While quicker – this method requires that the water is refreshed every 30 minutes or so, to ensure the turkey stays cold and thaws evenly. 

Tips for thawing a turkey

Leave the turkey in the original packaging to thaw – for both refrigerator and cold water thawing.  Place it on a rimmed baking sheet in the refrigerator to collect any juices that might seep out. 

  • Thaw time in the fridge requires about 24 hours for every 5 pounds in a refrigerator set at about 40 degrees F (5 degrees C).
  • Thaw time in cold water requires about 30 minutes per pound in cold water, refreshed every 30 minutes.

Once the turkey is thawed, you’ll need to remove all the giblets from the inside cavity of the turkey.  The Honeysuckle turkeys available at Safeway have a pouch on the bottom of the turkey with the liver and organs that need to be removed as well as the neck, which is located inside the turkey cavity.

Be sure to remove both before prepping and cooking the turkey.

How_To_Cook_a_Turkey_in_a_Bag

Prepping Turkey

I like to prep my turkey the day before Thanksgiving.  I season, stuff, and get it in the pan and turkey bag, ready for roasting the night before, so that I have one less thing to prep on Thanksgiving. 

Prepping a turkey takes time and is messy!  It requires that you sanitize all surfaces when you are done prepping, so by doing it the night before, you ensure your turkey is properly thawed and ready to go into the oven on Thanksgiving Day. 

To achieve a flavorful and juicy turkey, you need to work from the inside out. 

By using fresh aromatics like celery, carrots, onion, lemon, and fresh herbs on the inside of the bird, you infuse flavor into the meat while it’s cooking.

Keep the breast meat moist by coating it with an herb butter blend that melts into the turkey while it’s roasting.

Get a crispy skin every time by rubbing the turkey in olive oil and coating it with aromatic spices and herbs before roasting.  

Lastly, by roasting the turkey in a bag enclosed with carrots, celery, and onions, you are adding moisture, which helps the turkey steam.  You are also flavoring the turkey juices which will make an amazing gravy. 

Herb Butter Roasted Turkey Recipe

Ingredients

  • turkey, thawed and giblets removed
  • softened butter (salted or unsalted)
  • fresh or freeze-dried herbs like sage, thyme, and rosemary
  • fresh poultry blend herb mix – sage, thyme and rosemary
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • smoked paprika
  • onion powder
  • turkey bag
  • celery
  • onion
  • carrots
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • lemon
  • twine

aromatics_For_cooking a Turkey

How to Cook a Turkey In a Bag

Start by roughly chopping the celery, carrots, and onion.

If using fresh herbs for seasoning the turkey under the skin, mince the herbs.

Mix 1/4 cup of fresh or freeze-dried poultry blend herbs (sage, thyme, rosemary) with 1/2 stick of softened butter.

Stuff the turkey cavity with a mixture of celery, onion, lemon half, carrots, garlic cloves, and fresh herbs. 

Tie the turkey legs together with the kitchen twine for even cooking. 

Pat the turkey dry with paper towels so you have a dry surface with which to work. 

Gently separate the skin from the turkey breast with your fingers and place the softened herb butter under the skin as far as you can, coating with an even layer.

Next, drizzle olive oil over the top of the turkey and rub it in with your hands.  Season the turkey with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, onion powder, and 1 tablespoon of the freeze-dried poultry seasoning. Rub the seasoning in with your hands, coating the turkey all over.

If using an oven bag, place 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour into the bag and shake.  Dump out excess flour in the sink. 

Place the stuffed and seasoned turkey into the oven bag and into the roasting pan.  Place remaining celery, onion, lemon, and carrots around the turkey in the bag. 

Seal the bag with the twist tie.

If prepping the turkey the night before – then place the turkey into the refrigerator overnight.  If you are roasting the turkey – place it into a 350 preheated oven.

Cook the turkey for approximately 2.5 – 3.5 hours, depending on the size of the turkey. 

Check the internal temperature of the turkey by placing the thermometer in the thickest part of the breast.  It should register at 165° for a done turkey. 

Remove from the oven once the turkey is cooked and let it rest.  Don’t touch it while it’s resting. 

Resting the turkey ensures that the juices become redistributed into the meat, allowing for a juicy turkey.   Rest for at least 30 minutes before carving the turkey. 

Cut open the top of the bag to remove the turkey.  Place the turkey on a cutting board to carve. 

How to Make Turkey Gravy

Turkey gravy is so easy to make with the juices from the bag.

Once you remove the turkey from the bag, carefully pick up the bag with all the veggies and juices.

You can either cut a hole in the bag to strain the juices or carefully pour out the juices into a fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl. 

In a saucepan, melt 1/2 stick of butter and add 3 tablespoons of flour to prepare a roux.  Whisk until the flour is cooked through.  Slowly add the turkey juices continuing to stir until incorporated. 

Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce.  

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  It will thicken the longer it sits.  

Cooking_a_Turkey_in_a_Bag

How_To_Cook_a_Turkey

How to Cook a Turkey

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Course: dinner
Cuisine: American
Keyword: How to Cook a Turkey, Oven Roasted Turkey, Turkey in a Bag
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 8 people
Calories:
Author: Eva Fry

Ingredients

  • 1 12-24 lb. turkey thawed and giblets removed
  • 1/2 stick softened butter salted or unsalted
  • 1/4 cup fresh or freeze-dried herbs like sage thyme, and rosemary, minced
  • 1 bunch fresh poultry blend herb mix - sage thyme and rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 turkey bag
  • 4 celery stalks roughly cut up
  • 1 onion quartered
  • 4 carrots roughly cut
  • 3-4 garlic cloves peeled
  • 1 lemon quartered
  • kitchen twine to tie the turkey legs

Instructions

  • Start by roughly chopping the celery, carrots and onion.
  • If using fresh herbs for seasoning the turkey under the skin, mince the herbs.
  • Mix 1/4 cup of fresh or freeze-dried poultry blend herbs (sage, thyme, rosemary) with 1/2 stick of softened butter.
  • Stuff the turkey cavity with a mixture of celery, onion, lemon half, carrots, garlic cloves and fresh herbs.
  • Tie the turkey legs together with the kitchen twine for even cooking.
  • Pat the turkey dry with paper towels so you have a dry surface with which to work.
  • Gently separate the skin from the turkey breast with your fingers and place the softened herb butter under the skin as far as you can, coating with an even layer.
  • Next, drizzle olive oil over the top of the turkey and rub it in with your hands.  Season the turkey with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, onion powder, and 1 tablespoon of the freeze-dried poultry seasoning. Rub the seasoning in with your hands, coating the turkey all over.
  • If using an oven bag, place 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour into the bag and shake.  Dump out excess flour in the sink.
  • Place the stuffed and seasoned turkey into the oven bag and into the roasting pan.  Place remaining celery, onion, lemon, and carrots around the turkey in the bag.
  • Seal the bag with the twist tie.
  • If prepping the turkey the night before - then place the turkey into the refrigerator overnight.  If you are roasting the turkey - place it into a 350 preheated oven.
  • Cook the turkey for approximately 2.5 - 3.5 hours, depending on the size of the turkey.
  • Check the internal temperature of the turkey by placing the thermometer in the thickest part of the breast.  It should register at 165° for a done turkey.
  • Remove from the oven once the turkey is cooked and let it rest.  Don't touch it while it's resting.  Resting the turkey ensures that the juices become redistributed into the meat, allowing for a juicy turkey.
  • Cut open the top of the bag to remove the turkey.  Place the turkey on a cutting board to carve.

How Long to Cook a Turkey

The time involved in cooking a turkey depends on the size of the turkey.  Smaller turkeys obviously take less time.  You should plan to have your oven reserved for at least 2-4 hours depending on the size of your turkey. 

Internal Temperature of Turkey

The internal temperature should reach:

  • 165 degrees F to 170 degrees F in the breast 
  • 175 degrees F to 180 degrees F in the thigh

Approximate Turkey Cooking Times from USDA

  Weight Unstuffed Timing Stuffed Timing
  8 to 12 pounds 2 3/4 to 3 hours 3 to 3 1/2 hours
  12 to 14 pounds 3 to 3 3/4 hours 3 1/2 to 4 hours
Whole Turkey 14 to 18 pounds 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours 4 to 4 1/4 hours
  18 to 20 pounds 4 1/4 hours to 4 1/2 hours 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours
  20 to 24 pounds 4 1/2 to 5 hours 4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours

What to Serve With Cooked Turkey?

Here are some scrumptious sides that you can serve with your Thanksgiving turkey. 

Ultimate Sweet Potato Casserole

Scalloped Corn Casserole

Roasted Ginger Green Beans

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad With Kale, Apples and Cranberries

Cranberry Apple Sage Vegan Stuffing

Easy Cranberry Sauce

How to Cook Turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner

Sale on Turkey at Safeway

Safeway has an amazing turkey price this year – FREE through November 17th and $.49/lb. with Just for U Digital Coupon through Thanksgiving Day.

Of course, if you don’t want to cook the turkey, Safeway also offers prepared Thanksgiving meals complete with the meat and the trimmings. 

 

SuperSafeway is a blog devoted to helping you find the best deals at Safeway in the Denver division.  Every week we slice and dice the ad and tell you the best deals at Safeway with and without coupons.  For more low prices, check out Super Safeway’s weekly ad coupon matchup page. Would you like to stay updated on the best deals? If so, make sure to like Super Safeway on Facebook, join our Facebook group, follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our Instagram, or head over to Pinterest. Also, make sure to subscribe to our newsletter.

* Please note – Savings information is based on Colorado pricing and the Safeway Coupon Policy for the Denver Division which includes Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, Wyoming and South Dakota. Your market may vary. Prices may vary per location*

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